The most important man on the field, should get the most money. They don’t come down the draft turnpike all that often, and everyone wants on, because everyone needs one.
The 1983-NFL Draft of quarterbacks was a bonanza of all time. You remember the names, and you have followed the greatness of those careers.
John Elway came out of Stanford to become the greatest quarterback the Denver Broncos ever had. It took him time, and a couple of head coaches, to win a Super Bowl ring. He was a game-changer.
Jim Kelly was a refugee from the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, but he delivered the goods in the K-Gun offense with all the talent the Buffalo Bills put around him. You get to four straight Super Bowls, despite not winning one, is still a level of accomplishment hardly reached by anyone ever.
Dan Marino fell down the draft board, then raised the expectations of the Miami Dolphins, throwing to the Marx Brothers. Sadly there would be no Super Bowl trophy in his career of accomplishments, but he was so dangerous, so dynamic getting the ball down the field.
That draft also brought in Tony Eason from Illinois, who did get New England to a Super Bowl, plus the Jets’ Ken O’Brien and the Chiefs Todd Blackledge.
Fast forward to the modern day, and the current crop of throwers, equally dominant…
The 2004-NFL draft delivered a trifecta of greatness too, and a bevy of Super Bowl rings.
Eli Manning, rolled out of Ole Miss, and his New York Giants have been to the Super Bowl, have rings under Tom Coughlin, emerging from the shadows of brother Peyton Manning.
Ben Roethlisberger came out of tiny Miami of Ohio and has become the cornerstone of greatness at that position, playing under the shadow of Terry Bradshaw from back in the day. The rings he has helped the Steelers win, have resurrected a proud franchise.
Phillip Rivers has been the heart, the soul, the voice, the spirit of the Chargers, rewriting every page of the team’s record book, missing out on just one thing, a chance to play in the Big Show on Super Bowl Sunday.
That ’04 group of guys have all been rewarded, with likely Hall of Fame ceremonies still to come. And in a league where quarterbacks make or break your team, they are breaking the bank too on payday.
Roethlisberger has just started a 5-year-$99M deal, that encompassed a $30M-signing bonus.
The young quarterbacks have signed extensions too, even though Cam Newton has never been to a Carolina Panthers Super Bowl, though being given a 5-year $103M package. And ditto for Miami, just handing out an extension worth 5-seasons-$96M-to Ryan Tannehill.
Manning and Rivers are waiting for their paydays. The Giants, whose franchise has fallen on tough times, does not seem willing to entertain the kind of guaranteed money other stars are giving their passing icons. Manning is making $17M-this final go round.
Rivers will take home another $16M in San Diego, though he is expected to get another three year extension. Whether or not he breaks the bank with a guaranteed bonus remains to be seen.
The other unique name out there is Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, with a ring, and Super Bowl appearances.
His is the strangest case, in that he is headed to free agency as the 40th highest paid quarterback in the league. That’s right, 40th on the money list. It’s the final year of his initial deal. No one knew how good he would be coming out of Wisconsin, by way of North Carolina State. He will earn $1.2M this year. Now we all know how good he is on a team of very good players.
If they franchise tag him, he gets $20M next year. If they do a multi-year deal, the $20M number will likely be a starting point. A staggering amount of money.
John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly were highly paid, though the dollar figures were very, very different then to now.
The NFL is a quarterbacks league now, maybe even more so than ‘back in the day’ in the Elway-Marino-Kelly era. Today, in the NFL, if you have one, you better keep him, you better keep him healthy, you better put good players around him.
And as Big Ben, and the others will tell you, you better be ready to pay them too. You want greatness with your franchise, you’ll have to spend for greatness at that position.